A/N: The Author's Note convention in Roanoke was great! It was amazing to be in a roomful of people who get it. Profound and eternal thanks to Xenascully for being brave enough and talented enough to make it happen. I'm looking forward to next year!


Dean.

That was Sam's only thought as he fell into the Cage. He lost all sense of time and space and anything at all except that, except Dean. The clamor and din of his screeching plummet into hell fused into a grotesque background noise of screams and shrieks, utter darkness and constant agony, but none of it was ever enough to obliterate that one word, that one thought, that one need: Dean.

Suddenly, finally, the plummet stopped and the darkness around Sam leached away. He opened his eyes - and wasn't surprised that the Cage in the blackest part of the deepest pit in the furthest reaches of hell – looked exactly like Bobby's panic room.

'Figures.' He thought to himself, then wondered 'So when does this show get on the road?'

He'd landed flat on his back apparently (if position and gravity and physics mattered at all in the Cage) and apparently on what was supposed to be the ubiquitous and much-used cot in Bobby's panic room. He moved his arms and legs, expecting to find himself cuffed, but he wasn't restrained in anyway. Unless the fatigue in his brain and the heaviness in his limbs counted as being restrained.

A quick look around showed him - nothing. Nothing but what was supposed to be the inside of the panic room. No Adam. No Mike. No Lucy. No demons, no angels, no nothing. What - was waiting part of the hell of hell?

He started to move to prop himself up on his elbows, and a jabbing pinch in the back of his left hand caught him by surprise and made his heart pound in the fear and anticipation that now hell was going to start. It was going to start soon and it was going to last forever and it -

But it was an IV shunt inserted into a vein in the back of his hand, connected to an IV bag hanging over the cot.

Which was probably something that didn't happen in hell.

Which meant - ?

Sam looked around again, trying to take it all in. He wasn't restrained, the door to the panic room was wide open, his stocking feet were cushioned on a pillow over the end rail of the cot, he was attached to an IV drip, and a basin, used towel, and disposable razor sat on the small table next to the far wall.

Dean? Sam tried to form the word but his mouth was so dry no sound came out. Dean was alive? Bobby was dead, Cas was dead, Dean should be dead, but it had to be Dean who had done all of this because Sam knew there was nobody else who would go to all this trouble for him.

He started to shake, and tears filled his eyes.

Dean was alive.

Sam pushed himself up on his elbows, feeling like his muscles were mush and his strength non-existent. He pushed up and tried to hear something, anything, but everything was quiet. So quiet he had the sensation of an overwhelming noise cut off so suddenly that the resulting silence was oppressive. He tried to make some noise just to see if he had actually been deafened, but his mouth was too dry to whistle, and he didn't want to jiggle the IV line because it would hurt.

Dean.

Dean was alive.

He had to get to Dean.

Sam tried to swing his legs over the edge of the cot, but his bones ached and his muscles refused to cooperate and it was a long while of a lot of effort to get his body to do what he wanted.

Finally though, finally he was sitting up on the edge of the cot. He was dizzy and thirsty and should probably just stay down but - Dean. Dean was alive. He had to get to Dean. He had to see Dean. How had Dean survived? Was he okay? Was the damage done to him permanent? Sam had to find him. He had to find him now.

He tugged the tape off the IV shunt and tugged the shunt out of his hand. It kept dripping and he used the tape to plug the end of it because he didn't want to make a mess.

Once that was done, he gathered his strength, what little he seemed to have, and pushed himself up to standing. The room tilted a little but not enough to throw him off his feet. He took a tentative step, and then another.

He had to get to Dean. Dean was alive. Dean was nearby. He had to get to Dean.

And then Sam realized that he really had to pee. And he had no hope of making it upstairs anytime soon. Not soon enough. Talk about making a mess. The bucket was still there though, and Sam was too grateful for that to wonder - again - why Bobby had built this room with not so much as a semblance of a working bathroom.

Once that was done, he headed for the door, and then to the stairs, walking slow to keep the world in balance. He barely noticed how much his muscles complained as he pushed his body up the stairs, clinging to the railing for support and direction.

Dean was upstairs. He had to get to Dean.

The world wheeled at the top of the stairs and Sam clung to the railing and squeezed his eyes shut and willed it to pass. He could voices now. Voices. Too low to hear the words over the anxiety that was drilling up from his heart into his head. But someone was here, close by.

Please God, let it be Dean and let him be all right.

Please.

The world tilted back into place and Sam pushed himself upright and pushed himself to let go of the railing and pushed himself through the all-consuming exhaustion to walk toward the library. The voices were coming from the library and one of the voices - please please please - one of the voices had to be Dean.

He rested his hand against the wall to stay balanced as he walked. He didn't remember the hallway being so long and so dark, but the light pouring into it from the library had to be a good sign. He had to get there. He had to know.

Dean. Dean had to be there. Dean had to be all right.

He had to see Dean.

And then - he saw Dean.

There at Bobby's desk, with his back to the doorway, there was Dean.

And the twelve minutes at least that it'd taken Sam to make his way from the cot to the library doorway were a flash compared to how long it felt it was taking to get from the doorway to Dean.

~Dean Dean Dean~

He tried to say Dean's name, but his mouth was dry and it took a few tries until -

"Dean?"

And in an instant Dean was out of the chair and on his feet and coming toward Sam. He was fine. He looked fine. No scars, no bruises, no evidence of broken bones. Dean was real, he was alive, he was fine.

He was right there.

"Sam?"

He was right there, walking toward Sam, and of its own accord, Sam's body moved toward Dean. And the closer he got, the faster he moved, until Dean was close enough to grab and Sam grabbed him and held on. He squeezed his eyes shut to feel Dean, safe and sound and solid and alive and right there.

And then Dean's arms were tight around Sam, holding on, anchoring him as the world threatened to tilt wide again.

Dean was alive.

Dean was there.

And Sam was with Dean.

The End.